Saturday, June 15, 2024

Taylor Swift Tries to Redirect Fans’ Outrage over Ticket-Gouging into Activism

'It’s not just about getting vengeance for Swifties... It’s about fundamental equality. And when you have a monopolist like that, it’s just so representative of the class structure...'

(Headline USA) Singer Taylor Swift sought to deflect from her own greed after a ticket sale using Ticketmaster’s dynamic pricing model drove prices for concertgoers into the thousands of dollars due to a ticket shortage.

Now the singer is hoping to turn the fiasco into a public-relations stunt by promoting youthful activism, teaming with extreme leftists like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio–Cortez, D-N.Y., to indoctrinate recently fleeced fans into a radical ideology—socialism—that is notorious for its failing systems and scarcity of resources.

Swift’s strategy echoes that of other entertainers—like rocker Bruce Springsteen—who have embraced the new mode of supply-and-demand to jack up their prices in an inflationary economy.

“For the past 49 years or however long we’ve been playing, we’ve pretty much been out there under market value. I’ve enjoyed that. It’s been great for the fans,” Springsteen said recently, after tickets that used to run around $400 skyrocketed to around $5,000.

“This time I told them, ‘Hey, we’re 73 years old. The guys are there. I want to do what everybody else is doing, my peers,'” he continued. “So that’s what happened. That’s what they did.”

But unlike Springsteen, a classic blue-collar liberal who decided to take ownership of the problem, Swift’s approach mirrors that of modern Democratic policy leaders who routinely use their bully pulpit to shift blame and redirect outrage at the problems they caused back onto political adversaries by capitalizing on an ignorant and easily manipulated audience.

It started Nov. 15, when millions crowded a presale for Swift’s long-awaited Eras Tour, resulting in crashes, prolonged waits and frantic purchases. By Thursday, Ticketmaster had canceled the general sale, citing insufficient remaining tickets and inciting a firestorm of outrage from fans.

Swift herself said the ordeal “really pisses me off,” although it was unclear if she was referring to fans’ annoyance or to the lost revenue.

Ticketmaster apologized but the bad blood had already been sowed. And now, rather than shake it off, fans—and politicians—have started trying to capitalize on it.

Ocasio-Cortez directed Swifties to where they could make U.S. Department of Justice complaints. Multiple state attorneys general—including in Pennsylvania and Tennessee, key states in Swift’s origin story—have announced investigations.

Stephanie Aly, a New York-based professional who has worked on community organizing for progressive politics, for years has thought mobilizing fandoms for political activism could be beneficial.

“Fandoms are natural organizers,” said the 33-year-old Swiftie. “If you find the right issues and you activate them and engage them then you can effect real change.”

In 2020, for instance, K-pop fans organized to back the Black Lives Matter movement and sought to inflate registration for a Donald Trump rally, coordinating their efforts on the China-run platform TikTok.

Aly and Swifties from different industries—law, public relations, cybersecurity and more—have joined forces to create Vigilante Legal, a group targeting Ticketmaster by creating email templates to petition attorneys general and providing antitrust information. Thousands have expressed interest in helping or learning more.

“The level of anger that you’ve just seen in the country around this issue is astounding,” said Jean Sinzdak, associate director for the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University.

“People are really sharing their feelings about that and building a movement about that online, which I really think is quite fascinating,” she continued. “It’s certainly an opportunity to engage people politically. Whether it lasts is hard to say, but it certainly feels like a real opportunity.”

Democrats panicked over the failure of a similar outrage over abortion to gain traction during the recent midterm election after polls showed that unmarried women swung Democrat by a margin of 68%.

Republicans, meanwhile, capitalized on parent outrage over school indoctrination to swing suburban married women back into their camp.

In one way, said Sinzdak, this is giving Swift’s large following of younger people a direct line to seeing how policy takes shape. It’s also targeting a demographic that is seldom courted by politicians during election season.

“Nobody goes out and thinks, ‘Let’s target young women,’” claimed Gwen Nisbett, a University of North Texas professor who researches the intersection of political engagement and pop culture. “Be it about abortion or student loans, that age group is super mobilized and young women are super mobilized.”

Fan culture and community has boosted that tendency toward mobilization.

Nisbett was studying parasocial relationships—when fans have strong one-way relationships with celebrities—in 2018, when the previously apolitical Swift posted an endorsement of Democratic candidates to social media.

Nisbett found that while such posts may not determine fans’ votes, they still led to the increased likelihood fans would look for more information about voting—and actually vote.

For the record: AP VoteCast, an extensive survey of the U.S. electorate, showed about a third of Tennessee voters in 2018 said they had a favorable opinion of Swift, and among them, a large majority—about 7 in 10—backed Democrat Phil Bredesen in the Senate contest. That was in clear contrast to the roughly third of voters who had an unfavorable opinion of Swift and overwhelmingly backed Republican Marsha Blackburn.

For Swifties, the ire for Ticketmaster is not just about a ticket: “It’s the fact that you can’t participate in your community and your fandom and it’s part of your identity,” Nisbett said.

This isn’t even the first time a fandom or an artist has targeted Ticketmaster. Pearl Jam took aim at the company in 1994, although the Justice Department ultimately declined to bring a case.

“It’s not just about getting vengeance for Swifties. It’s not about getting an extra million Taylor Swift fans tickets, or all of us going to a secret session,” said Jordan Burger, 28, who is using his law background to help the cause.

“It’s about fundamental equality,” he claimed. “And when you have a monopolist like that, it’s just so representative of the class structure of a society where there isn’t equality anymore, there isn’t fairness.”

The sheer power and size of Swift’s fandom has spurred conversations about economic inequality, merely symbolized by Ticketmaster.

Aly noted that quite a few of the members of the group did get tickets; the issue is is bigger than Ticketmaster, she said.

“We’ve gotten some feedback that, ‘This is too big, let the government handle it.’ Have you seen the U.S. government? The government only functions when the people push it to and when the people demand that it function and the people are involved,” she said.

“Even when something seems too big to fail or too powerful to fail, there are always enough of us to make a difference,” she continued. “Your involvement may be the thing that pushes it over the edge that forces the government to act.”

Aly says many grown-up Swifties have 10-15 years’ experience of being bullied for liking the singer—but what fans have in mind might be better than revenge.

“We have thick skin and nothing to lose, really,” Aly said.

Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press

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